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Interview With Cheryl Hodd aka Hannah Alexander

Tell us a little about yourself?

Hannah Alexander is the pen name for my husband, Mel and myself. Fair Warning is our fifteenth published novel. We chose our pen name because we wanted to reflect the fact that we write together as one person. I am the writer, while Mel helps me with the medical aspects of the stories. He’s an ER physician. He also helps edit, writes medical scenes for me, and is my constant encourager. I chose the name Hannah because I identified with Hannah in the Bible, who suffered for so many years without children. I’ve never had children. Mel chose the name Alexander because it means servant of mankind.

How many years have you been writing?

I’ve been making up stories since before I could read or write. I began getting serious about novel writing nearly twenty-two years ago, but I wrote for fourteen years before I ever sold a manuscript to a book publisher.

When do you write?

Typically, I write late at night when all is quiet. Often I don’t get more than an hour or two to write, so my motto is slow and steady. There’s always a big rush near deadline to complete the story, and the stress is unbelievable. I set a perfect example of how not to work on a novel.

Do you set daily goals for your writing?

I’m always setting goals for my writing. Once upon a time, that worked for me. But once upon a time I worked ten to eleven hours a day on my writing. I could write ten or fifteen pages a day. I found, however, that the more I learned about writing, the slower it became. Now if I can get three or four pages a day, I celebrate. I just have to write something every day. Other writers are prolific, and can write four to six books a year. I can barely squeak in two. I’d love to be able to write one book a year, and make it really, really good. I love rewrites.

Where do you write?

Varying my writing area works best for me. I tend to get bored easily, so if I’m surrounded by the same old things day after day, I quickly tire of it and lose inspiration. I may write in the sun room for a few days, then move into the house on the sofa, or some other area of the house. Since Mel is a doctor, I sometimes find myself writing longhand in the waiting area of a hospital, which can be inspirational when you’re observing people and their reactions.

Do you plot or not?

Characters are more fascinating to me than plots, so the first thing I have to do when I’m starting a new story is find a character who fascinates me, then build a life around that character. Since our publisher must have a proposal with synopsis, I have to have at least a five page story line, but seldom more than that. I love Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake method of plotting, but rarely get past the first two or three steps before I’m caught up in the story and forget about the plotting. That can land me in trouble later, but I have to go with the story when it decides to take me.

Is your first draft rough or do you aim for a polished manuscript the first time through?

Angie Hunt likes to blast through her story very quickly, then go back and polish over and over again. I wish so badly I could do that. I can’t stand a rough first draft. I have to go back over and over apiece until it sounds good to me. I probably rewrite something at least five times, often more, before I can live with it. Even then, I wish I had time to put the whole book away for a few weeks, then bring it back out again and polish. Unfortunately, the way I write keeps me from doing that often, but I’ve found that the novels of ours that have done the best were those manuscripts I had written years ago, then set aside and brought back out to rework.

How does your Christian walk influence your writing?

Writing is what I am called to do, so both flow naturally together. When my Christian walk or my prayer life falters, the writing falters, as well.

What was your biggest obstacle in regards to writing and/or getting published?

My biggest obstacle was discouragement. Writing for fourteen years without noticeable results can be demoralizing, even though I had been warned that it took at least twelve years to develop the skills to write a good novel. Others may be born with those skills, or learn them more quickly. I’m personally glad I had to try that long and hard, because now I don’t expect anything to come easily.

Do you have any advice for a new writer?

Never give up. Never expect it to be easy. Persevere no matter what anyone says, because if God has called you to write, you must do it.

Do you have a website?

Any recent or upcoming releases you¹d like to mention?

Fair Warning is our fourth Steeple Hill Women’s Fiction title, and is the fourth book in our Hideaway series. It’s to be released in April. Under Suspicion is our second Love Inspired Suspense title, and is due for release in July.

Thank you Cheryl for this time you have spent with us.

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